James Lovelock seems to have thrown in the towel on mankind. Four decades ago Lovelock introduced the theory of Gaia, the Earth functioning very much like an organism. He is considered a luminary of the global warming movement.
In a recent Guardian interview, Lovelock took the opportunity to praise 'legitimate' climate change skeptics, to upbraid some aspects of the scientific community, and, as always, to advocate the need for adaptation to what's coming instead of wasting time and resources on arresting global warming itself. This time he went so far as to suggest global warming is the sort of existential danger that may require the suspension of modern democracy:
...We need a more authoritative world. We've become a sort of cheeky, egalitarian world where everyone can have their say. It's all very well, but there are certain circumstances – a war is a typical example – where you can't do that. You've got to have a few people with authority who you trust who are running it. And they should be very accountable too, of course.
But it can't happen in a modern democracy. This is one of the problems. What's the alternative to democracy? There isn't one. But even the best democracies agree that when a major war approaches, democracy must be put on hold for the time being. I have a feeling that climate change may be an issue as severe as a war. It may be necessary to put democracy on hold for a while.
...I don't know enough abut carbon trading, but I suspect that it is basically a scam. The whole thing is not very sensible. We have this crazy idea that we are setting an example to the world. What we're doing is trying to make money out of the world by selling them renewable gadgetry and green ideas. It might be worthy from the national interest, but it is moonshine if you think what the Chinese and Indians are doing [in terms of emissions]. The inertia of humans is so huge that you can't really do anything meaningful.
...I don't think we're yet evolved to the point where we're clever enough to handle a complex a situation as climate change. We're very active animals. We like to think: "Ah yes, this will be a good policy," but it's almost never that simple. Wars show this to be true. People are very certain they are fighting a just cause, but it doesn't always work out like that. Climate change is kind of a repetition of a war-time situation. It could quite easily lead to a physical war. That's why I always come back to the safest thing to do being adaptation. For example, we've got to have good supplies of food. I would be very pleased to see this country and Europe seriously thinking about synthesising food.
The problem I always have with Lovelock's approach, and those of many in the science community, is that they tend to address global warming in isolation rather than incorporate it into the mix of manmade threats facing our species. As Maude Barlow points out, the looming global freshwater crisis is easily as dire a threat to mankind as global warming. Add to these the host of lesser but contributing problems such as desertification, resource depletion, species extinction, air,land and water contamination - and others - and the real nature of the problem we're facing begins to emerge.
I'm absolutely convinced that none of these problems, not one, can be solved in isolation of the others. They all must be solved for there to be a meaningful solution to any of them. Only by approaching them holistically will we identify the common threads that run through each and all of them. Only in recognizing the commonalities will we be able to shape the approaches we need to tackle them en masse.
Unfortunately I find myself agreeing with Lovelock that garden-variety democracy may be too flawed, too clumsy to meet these challenges or to prevent them from spreading beyond our control. The fact is we have no solutions to any of them, not even one.
Realize this. You are today standing on the cusp of what will become a world of rapidly accelerating change. Our ability to control that change is slipping through our fingers. It won't be global warming but the freshwater crisis that will hit first and it will hit us extremely hard and very soon. This is a danger that will be here, full blown, within 15-years if not sooner.
You may think of water in the context of what comes out of your taps on demand. You may think of water problems as a blight experienced in the poorer corners of the world. If so, you need to take a hard look at what's happening just next door, in the backyard of our immediate neighbour. Here's a glimpse from Maude Barlow excerpted from her book "The Global Water Crisis":
"...Florida is in trouble. The state's burgeoning population, with a net influx of 1,060 people every day, relies almost entirely upon its dwindling groundwater sources for its water supplies. To keep its fast-spreading lawns and golf courses green, the sunshine State is sucking up groundwater at such a rate that it has created thousands of sinkholes that devour anything - houses, cars and shopping malls... ..California has a twenty-year supply of freshwater left. New Mexico has only a ten-year supply. Arizona is out: it now imports all of its drinking water. ...scientists and water managers throughout the American Midwest and Southwest are saying that it is more than drought: major parts of the United States are running out of water. In fact, the Environmental Protection Agency warns that if current water use continues unchecked, thirty-six states will suffer water shortages within the next five years."
What passes for political leadership of any stripe in Canada never acknowledges these matters much less opens them for discussion with the Canadian public. At best they make some tangential reference usually accompanied by a meaningless bromide. Do they think Canada will be immune to the fallout from America's crises? Are they simply afraid to mention these matters lest that negatively impact their personal political aspirations? Harper certainly is, Ignatieff too. Layton simply takes a free ride on their silence. Unfortunately we'll all pay dearly for their political cowardice.